What are the key steps to planning a smart waste management solution?
By John Dillon, VP Marketing Superfy, 10 April 2023
What are the key steps to planning a smart waste management solution?
Waste management planning takes time – and creating a solution that is sustainable, achievable and manageable requires you to consider a range of factors.
Whether you’re an organisation looking to review your waste management strategy, or you’re a government or council tackling an area within the community, your needs are going to be different. The beauty of modern waste management in the developed world is how multifaceted it is, and how many options there are on offer.
Let’s break down what this can look like.
What is the most popular method of waste management?
Currently, the most popular method of waste management is landfill – and although this can be a viable option, it isn’t necessarily the most sustainable. Instead, the way that we like to look at waste management is focused around waste prevention – tackling waste at the source, which can also be a popular method embraced by citizens in the home through to government bodies and councils.
Waste prevention is also known as source reduction, and it is the most environmentally friendly strategy. Source reduction can include reusing or recycling items, donating, buying in bulk (shopping at whole food centres etc), reducing packaging, and choosing more sustainable methods of transport.
From an organisational perspective, source reduction can be used mostly within the retail or consumer goods world – with many retailers offering “less packaging” or “sustainable” options, as well as recycling schemes and rewards schemes, depending on your location. Waste management planning – as you can probably already see, takes many shapes and forms. Although landfill is still considered the most “popular” – it doesn’t mean you should automatically go for this.
Source reduction on a city or community-wide initiative can also be incredibly effective, although this largely boils down to budgets and accessibility within the chosen area. Cycling schemes – for example public bikes, e-bikes and scooters in cities such as Amsterdam, London, Lisbon and Paris are excellent ways to reduce pollution, and smart bins in Singapore enable solid waste to be contained and disposed of, thus creating a cleaner, safer environment for its citizens!
How do I make a waste management plan?
Creating a waste management plan and executing it will depend largely on what your needs are. Whether you’re the owner of a company looking to create sustainable, conscious choices to reduce waste – or you’re a city manager tackling a specific area of waste management, your plan will reflect this.
Organisational: On an organisational level, we always recommend to start with smaller, more achievable metrics within your plan and working your way up. Within a corporate organisation, there are so many moving parts – and encouraging employees to put additional thought outside of their role into a waste management initiative isn’t going to generate the best returns. Instead, focus on starting with something such as strict recycling rules which can be embodied by all in the organisation, and then work your way towards creating paperless teams and projects, and making corporate partnerships rooted in sustainability: for example your fundraising efforts or even client partners.
Once you start to weave these activities into the lifeblood of your organisation, you’ll start to attract employees who emulate your views – thus being able to carry out bigger projects in the future.
A great example of this is Patagonia: “Since 87% of Patagonia products are made with recycled materials, and they continue to improve on this and they are transparent about it, it’s pretty easy to call them one of the most sustainable outdoor apparel brands when it comes to their materials.”
Patagonia also runs multiple initiatives all over the world – all rooted within sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint, whilst still producing high-quality clothes that will last. For example, if an item of clothing breaks, Patagonia offers free repairs.
City-wide: Similar to an organisational waste management plan, a city-wide plan must have specific milestones to tackle specific issues. Let’s look at Switzerland as an example and how they tackle waste:
“The waste management in Switzerland is based on the polluter pays principle. Bin bags are taxed with pay-per-bag fees in three quarters of the communes. The recycling rate doubled in 20 years due to this strategy.” [source]
Within a city such as Zurich, for example, this method works incredibly well – as it keeps the citizens in a densely populated city accountable for their solid waste. This then creates a much better supply chain for waste management as it’s tackled at the source. However, this strategy works because of how Switzerland approaches waste management overall.
They have the right infrastructure, funding and cost of living vs. basic pay to make this achievable. In poorer, less developed cities this approach simply couldn’t work. This is why city-wide waste management plans are so deeply nuanced – and must be looked at as smaller, specific projects that contribute to a wider sustainability and waste management initiative over time.
What are the key steps to planning a smart waste management solution
There are 5 key steps to planning a smart waste management solution.
It is important to clearly define the goals of the smart waste management solution. What do you hope to achieve with the system? Do you want to reduce waste, increase recycling rates, or both?
It’s also important to ensure that the goals are achievable and broken down into smaller milestones. Some smart waste management solutions can end up becoming pretty complex, so mitigating certain areas will take time and lots of mini-projects in between. Set goals, make them realistic, and create mini-goals to ensure your team is motivated to achieve them.
#2 Data collection
Smart waste management solutions rely on data to optimize the collection, processing, and disposal of waste. It is important to plan for the collection and analysis of this data. Data is a core component in your smart waste management solution, so ensure that you’ve identified which data points you need (and don’t overcomplicate it by over-collecting data).
Different types of technology can be used in smart waste management systems, including sensors, GPS tracking, and data analytics software. It is important to choose the right technology for your needs and to ensure that it is compatible with your existing systems.
Implementing a smart waste management solution can be expensive, especially if it requires the purchase of new technology or the training of staff. It is important to have a clear budget in place and to ensure that the benefits of the system justify the costs.
#5 Stakeholder engagement
It is important to engage with key stakeholders, including government officials, waste management companies, and the general public, when planning to implement a smart waste management solution. This can help to ensure that the solution is implemented smoothly and that it is accepted by the community.
What are the key benefits of a smart waste management solution
Waste reduction: They can help to reduce the amount of waste being generated by providing data on waste patterns and trends, and by promoting waste reduction initiatives.
Increased recycling rates: They can also help to increase recycling rates by providing data on the types and quantities of materials that are being recycled, and by promoting recycling initiatives.
Cost savings: They can help to save money by reducing the number of waste collection trucks needed, and by reducing the amount of waste that needs to be disposed of in landfills.
Environmental benefits: They can also have Create a positive impact on the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and by reducing the amount of waste that is sent to landfills.
Public satisfaction: They can also improve public satisfaction by making waste management more efficient and convenient for citizens. For example, a smart waste collection system that uses sensors to optimize routes can reduce the amount of time that residents have to wait for their waste to be collected.
What are the 4 types of waste management?
There are many types of waste management, however, the main four that are commonly used are: landfill, incineration, waste compaction, and composting. Are these the most sustainable? No. But, they can be very efficient on a commercial or city-wide scale.
What are the 3 golden rules of waste management?
The golden rules are the “Three R’s” – reduce, reuse, and recycle. These three golden rules all help to reduce the amount of waste we throw away, and are a crucial part of waste management planning.
So, how can you start to practice and live by the golden rules?
Reduce: Unfortunately, in the developed world we live with a lot of choice, and although it’s great to have options, it makes us wasteful and not conscious of how much we are throwing away (or not using altogether). If you’re a business, when was the last time you audited your inventory for what you are, and aren’t using? Simple steps like this can make a huge difference.
Reuse: Get rid of single-use plastics, disposable cutlery and other single use items where possible – whether you’re a business or a council! Although there are certain circumstances where this is unavoidable, on the whole, look at materials that you can reuse instead of creating more waste.
Recycle: If you don’t have a recycling scheme within your organisation or in your community, what can you introduce to keep everybody accountable and encourage recycling? In most developed countries globally there are recycling schemes everywhere – from your standard household recycling through to battery recycling and even clothes recycling. As the circular economy grows, there are more demands for more specific streams of recycling.
Many types of waste are recyclable, including:
Paper and cardboard: Most types of paper and cardboard can be recycled, including newspapers, magazines, office paper, and cardboard boxes.
Glass: Glass bottles and jars can be recycled.
Plastic: Many types of plastic can be recycled, including plastic bottles, containers, and packaging materials.
Metal: Metal cans and containers, such as aluminium cans and steel cans, can be recycled.
Electronic waste: Electronic waste, or e-waste, such as computers, smartphones, and other electronic devices, can be recycled.
Textiles: Clothing and other textiles can be recycled or donated to charities.
Organic waste: Organic waste, such as food waste and yard waste, can be composted.
In summary, efficient waste management for today’s world requires smart, technology-driven solutions to address the growing challenges of the sector. There are several essential steps to developing a smart waste management solution, including setting waste management goals, identifying appropriate waste management technologies, designing an implementation plan, and monitoring and evaluating the system’s performance through the collection of accurate data. Done right, there are numerous to implementing a smart waste management solution, for the waste management organization itself, for the citizens and for the environment as a whole.
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